On Dec. 17, the Maldives welcomed its 500,000th tourist of 2020 with a ceremony at Velana International Airport.
The celebrated tourist, Kirstin Madeleine Nittke, was identified by immigration officers as she arrived on an Emirates flight from Germany and presented with a sash and flower garland.
She was then escorted to a stage outside the terminal and greeted by senior officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Maldives Immigration and other agencies.
“Amidst such a pandemic, it is a remarkable feat to keep on achieving such milestones,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, during the event.
“We welcomed the 100,000th visitor since the border reopening just a few days ago.”
After a live performance by traditional boduberu group Bidhabin, officials gave Nittke multiple gifts, including a watch from Maldives Wave and a voucher for a complimentary week-long stay at Coco Bodu Hithi Resort.
Nittke’s arrival was an important milestone for the Maldives’ tourism industry. On March 27, the 1,200-island nation closed its borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, striking a major blow to its tourism-reliant economy.
On Sept. 15, the World Travel and Tourism Council declared the country a “safe destination” for travelers. Since then, tourism has steadily increased, with daily visitors hitting a post-pandemic record of 3,006 on Dec. 6.
More than 15 airlines are currently flying to the Maldives. Travelers from Russia, India, the United Kingdom and the United States make up the majority of daily tourist arrivals.
In 2019, a record 1.7 million people visited the Indian Ocean nation, a 14.7% increase over 2018’s total. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector had hoped to build on that achievement and attract 2 million visitors in 2020.
Though the four-month border closure made that goal impossible, the arrival of the Maldives’ 500,000th visitor raised hopes of a quick economic recovery.
The Ministry of Tourism predicts the country will hit 1.5 million tourist arrivals in 2021.